Carole Steketee

Exploring conditions for the effective implementation and use of computerised cognitive tools


What are students’ perceptions of using computers as learning tools? This question was posed in the study where fourth year education students used computerised cognitive tools in a traditionally non-computer based unit. The overall aim of this project was to determine the extent to which cognitive tools contributed to effective learning when implemented within a distributed learning environment.

In effect, this environment encouraged shared knowledge construction through the distribution of cognition across collaborative groups and contextual resources. Using action research methodology, student learning was evaluated in terms of the socio-cognitive processes that emerged within four of these groups, each of which consisted of three students and one computer.

Even though the findings suggest that the cognitive tool clearly supported the development of deep socio-cognitive processes, the students’ perspectives were subsequently sought in an effort to determine the precise way in which this support manifested itself. A range of themes emerged from this inquiry, most of which relate to the students’ perceptions of the cognitive tool as a partners in their learning. These partnerships are explored, along with other themes that characterise both positive and negative issues related to the students' perceptions of cognitive tools in distributed learning environments.


Steketee, C., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (1999). Distributed cognition as an instructional framework. Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Annual Conference Proceedings. Melbourne: University of Melbourne.

Steketee, C., Oliver, R., & Herrington, J., (2001). Collaborative activity: Using concept mapping software in a distributed learning environment. In C. Montgomerie, & J. Viteli, (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia 2001 (pp. 1796-1798). Tampere, Finland: AACE.

Steketee, C., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2001). Computers as cognitive tools: Do they really enhance learning? In P.L. Jeffery (Ed.), Proceedings of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) International Educational Research Conference, Fremantle.

Steketee, C. (2004). Action research as an investigative approach within a computer based community of learners. In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference (pp. 875-880). Perth, 5-8 December.